World Cup Soccer Notebook
CLAIREFONTAINE, France (AP) _ Two of the biggest names in French sports are at each other’s throats. Aime Jacquet and L’Equipe do not get along.
Jacquet, the coach of the nation’s World Cup semifinalist, has had a yearlong feud with the nation’s biggest sports newspaper, ever since L’Equipe (French for ``The Team″) started questioning whether he was up to the task of leading France to the title.
``I feel shame for this press,″ said Jacquet, usually mild-mannered and soft-spoken. ``It’s rabble. They’re dishonest and incompetent.″
L’Equipe, widely read in France, was taken aback by his strong words. ``We don’t recognize ourselves in this,″ assistant general editor Gerard Ejnes said.
Jacquet was unrepentant. ``It was not the first time nor will it be the last,″ he said. ``We will have time to talk about this again.″
The Paris paper published an editorial Monday headlined, ``To each his own truth,″ suggesting France needed a more attacking strategy. It quoted another coach who has been critical of the Jacquet system.
``It’s not because of the French team and the Coupe du Monde (World Cup) is being played here that we will stop being critical,″ Ejnes said in an interview.
WANTED: WINNING COACH: Croatia’s run to the semifinals has brought some job offers for coach Miroslav Blazevic, who won’t say who they are from or if he’s interested.
``I have gotten several offers, notably to coach in France,″ Blazevic said Tuesday. ``But I’ll deal with that after the World Cup.″
Blazevic, 63, took over the Croatian team in 1994 and has two years remaining on his contract. He coached FC Nantes in France in 1989-91 and has also had stints in Switzerland and Greece.
NO DOPES HERE; The score from the World Cup drug lab: Doping tests 240, Dopers 0.
Officials said Tuesday that not a single banned substance had been found in the tests conducted on 240 players picked at random from the first 60 matches.
``There were 240 tests and 240 negative results,″ said Dr. Lars Peterson of Sweden, a FIFA medical committee member.
He said the tests took in a majority of the players who got into games at the World Cup through the quarterfinals, and that the negative results were ``a source of great satisfaction.″
``This is not a victory. We still have four matches left,″ Peterson said. The semifinals are Tuesday and Wednesday, the third-place game Saturday and the final on Sunday.
The 1994 World Cup in the United States was shaken by a doping scandal involving Argentine superstar Diego Maradona, found to have taken banned stimulants. He was kicked off the team and served a 15-month playing ban imposed by FIFA.
Dr. Michel D’Hooghe of Belgium, another member of the medical committee, attributed the latest results to efforts by the world soccer federation and medical officials of the 32 teams to combat illegal substances, including steroids and stimulants.
``We emphasized to all team doctors that we should have a World Cup without doping,″ D’Hooghe said.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter said he was pleased but surprised by the absence of drug cases.
``I don’t think doping is in football,″ he said.
SO WHAT DO YOU REALLY THINK? Brazil isn’t playing it’s best soccer, England’s David Beckham didn’t deserve to be ejected and the best-looking teams so far have been France and the Netherlands.
Who says so? Pele.
The triple Cup winner from Brazil and generally acknowledged as the greatest player of all time, Pele told L’Equipe that his old team is not working together.
``We’ve had some little problems with coordination. Luckily we qualified but Brazil can play better,″ he said.
He criticized FIFA for coddling strikers, like the rule against tackling from behind. FIFA ``creates difficulty for the defenders that are now afraid of getting a yellow or red card,″ Pele said. Players also are faking fouls, he said, like the one that led to Beckham’s expulsion from the Argentina-England second-round match.
``Oh yes, I didn’t see it very well the first time. But now I think that (Diego) Simeone is ... a good actor,″ Pele said.
Pele said he liked this World Cup better that the last two because the game is open and there are lots of goals.
``The best looking teams I’ve seen are France and the Netherlands,″ he said. ``They play to win.″
THE LATE, LATE SHOW: Despite late-night kickoffs and no local team to root for, the World Cup is drawing big TV audiences in China.
A survey of 1,036 people in Beijing and Shanghai found that 68 percent have stayed up to watch the broadcasts, China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency said Tuesday.
Among men, the figure was 83.5 percent, Xinhua said, quoting the survey conducted by a Beijing company. It gave no margin of error.
The high percentages come despite a six-hour time difference with France, which means many matches were shown late at night or in the early morning on Chinese television.
The broadcasts have also come with appeals shown at the bottom of the screen asking fans to keep the noise down during matches and for students not to let the soccer interfere with their study for exams.